Sexual Harrassment, Retaliation, Hositle working environment

About a year ago, I accepted an opportunity within my company to move into another role within the Finance Department. (Mar 03) The Sr. Finance Analyst was a man who at the time was not my direct boss, but he was the lead and training me. In meetings with management (I was the only woman) he would single me out by telling me to go get him more coffee. He would then look at the other men and laugh. I refused of course, and explained that his comments were not funny. This continued over and over again. Additionally, he began making comments in a sexual nature to me. Here are a few examples: The was a company golf tournament and he told me, in front of two other men, that I should join his team and wear a tight top and short shorts so that everyone would stare at me and he would get an advantage to win because everyone would be too busy staring at me. I just walked out of his office. The next day on a thursday he came into my office and gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him that weekend, his wife would be out of town and I could go swimming. I refused and told him his request was completely inappropriate. He responded saying, "no one has to know". I have never had this happen to me before, so I spent the weekend dwelling on how to appropriately handle this situation. On Monday, I return to work with him storming into my office, suddenly I am being accused of reporting incorrect hours on my timecard and he is considering firing me on the spot. (I am a salaried employee, however we are contracted through the govt so our company is required to sign timecards) In complete shock I told him that there was no way I reported incorrectly and that I could prove it. I immediately realized he was mad because he waited for me to call all weekend, but never did. (I assumed) I quickly went down to HR to report all activities I was keeping note of, regarding his inappropriate behavior. HR investigated, I gave them all my witnesses, and they decided to only WRITE HIM UP. I requested to be moved out of the dept, but HR told me that they feel he has learned from this experience and that it may all just have been a miscommunication. WHAT? So one week later they promote him to being my direct supervisor. Promoted after being written up for violating corporate policy and federal laws regarding sexual harrassment? I told HR I feared retaliation, they responded that they were sure He and I could work together. One thing after another.......he constantly accused me of poor quality work. I can expand further on this, but he would even walk into my office shut my door and yell at me. One time he told me that I need to beg him to keep my job. I reported it to HR. He began with his sexual comments again, telling me that I should quit my job as a financial analyst because he thought I would be a better fit in Vegas as a show girl. I reported it to HR. Still nothing. Finally, during my annual review he marked down so many "needs improvement" areas, when I question him and asked he explain and backup his rankings of me, he began to use abusive language towards me. Again the door was shut. He said "Are you f'ing threatening me?" "I could take you down to HR and fire you on the spot!" I immediately requested he open the door and calm down and that I didnt feel compfortable alone with him. He did nothing. He calmed his voice down and told me to start looking for another job, that this company was not a good fit for me. He stated that I had maybe 3 months left and that if I didnt start communicating with him effectively, then he will have me fired. Huh? I reported the incident to HR....told them I had enough, and that I wanted something done immediately. They asked me if I wanted to move.....I responded saying "why should I be penalized for HIS behavior?" I said "no". I asked HR had I treated another employee this way and if I had violated the employee standard of conducts policy over and over again would I have a job? He replied "no". Two days later, my boss took me into a room, along with the director, and told me that HE and the director have decided to move me. He stated out loud, sorry things didnt work out for you here in this department. It has been one week, I have been moved. Co-workers are gossiping....My former boss has gone around telling people I have been moved because of my poor communication with him. He is still a manager. I believe I have been sexually harrassed and when I reported it, HR did nothing to prevent a hostile environment and retaliation. This has been a long and emotional year, this hostile environment has effected my personal life. Do I have a case? Please help.

1 answer  |  asked Jan 31, 2004 11:50 AM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Moving the victim is not an appropriate solution to end sexual harrassment

Your case has a lot of details too numerous to discuss, and your former boss undoubtedly has a completely different version of the facts. You should talk to an attorney about evaluating the case in detail.
That being said, the one general rule that the courts have recognized in cases such as yours is that an employer should not transfer the victim of sexual harrassment to solve the problem. If a transfer to a different worksite or department is undesirable, it is considered an act of retaliation by the employer against the one who complained. If some action is needed to correct the problem, the action should be one that does not adversely impact the one who complains. Not every transfer rises to the level of an adverse employment action, however. If your anger is based upon the lack of punishment meted out to your former boss, that won't get you far. The law does not entitle you to demand that he be punished, only that you not be subjected to sexual harrassment or to retailation for complaining.
Your boss's behavior sounds like a combination of two kinds of sexual harrassment. One, called "hostile environment," simply involves unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, such as remarks about your body. The other, called "quid pro quo," involves the use of his power as your boss to obtain sexual favors or tolerance of inappropriate behavior. Although there is something of a distinction between the two, your employer can be held liable for either type of harrassment.
To pursue the matter beyond HR, you should file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Before you do, it might be wise to discuss with an attorney the kinds of damages you can recover, and whether the prospect of a satisfactory resolution warrants the expense and additional difficulty involved in pursuing such a claim.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Feb 2, 2004 11:13 AM [EST]

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